Monday, May 10, 2021

The rocky roads back for Kluber and Taillon should limit expectations for Luis Severino

It seems like 20 years since Luis Severino was a "thing." 

In fact, it was 2018 - (Christine Blasse Ford... Stormy Daniels... Stoneman Douglas High School...) - when Sevey went 19-8 and finished 9th in the Cy Young balloting,  behind - among others - Cleveland's Cory Kluber, who finished 3rd.

Olden times. The Me-Too movement was just beginning... Jeffrey Epstein was untouchable... The Mueller investigation was underway... and Severino was a fixture in the Yankees' future.

Well, the team says Severino this week will throw against "live" batters - (as opposed to dead ones?) - in Camp Tampa, while the Yankees pass through, en route to their beatdown. Surely, we'll hear an update, and though you can't predict baseball, Suzyn, here's something to place your Draft Kings bet on: 

The YES propaganda mill will assure us that Severino is "doing great," is "feeling good," and that he will rejoin the team "sometime this summer," which is like saying, yes, little Debbie, Mr. Epstein will see you now for his Girl Scout cookies.

I could go to the old chestnut -that we've seen this movie before. Actually, we've seen it so many times that we're like Wade Boggs with Wizard of Oz. (Explanatory note: In the middle of his sex-addiction scandal, Boggs' concubine once claimed he could recite every line in the movie; I'm still waiting for his one-man show.) This spring, we've watched the "The Return of the Cy," in the forms of Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Justin Montgomery. And if we've learned anything, it's that roads back are rocky, pitted and dead ends. It's taken a month for Kluber to regain a semblance of his 2018 stuff, and it came against Detroit, a tomato can. Taillon still can't go five, and Monty - who actually returned last year - is still finding his way.

Any suggestion that Severino can be a 2021 game-changer also comes with it the possibility of killing his Yankee career. Such expectations might be why we're still waiting on him: In 2019, the Yankees rushed him back for the playoffs - he started games against Minnesota and Houston, never making it through the fifth - then disappeared the following spring for Tommy John surgery. Would he have been healthy, if we hadn't pushed him back? We'll never know, will we?

He's now 27 and two years away from free agency. (In 2019, the Yankees signed him to what seemed like a career-long deal.) If he gets hurt again, we might not even see him before 2023, his contract year. 

So, what can we legitimately expect this summer?

Let's say Severino feels good enough to return around July 1. Let's give him five starts in Scranton, maybe stretching him to three or four-inning bursts. If he looks good, we might bring him up in August - either to pitch out of the bullpen or lead off "a bullpen start," something that didn't even exist when he last pitched for us. If everything goes well, if he hits every green light, he might be viable in September. In the meantime - like Kluber, Taillon, et al - he'll get knocked around a few times, when the stuff just isn't there. 

Severino could help the 2021 team. But this week, when the Baghdad Bobs of YES tell us how great he looks, remember this: We rushed him back once, and if we blow it again, we could lose him for good. It's a long, rough road back. No matter what they tell us, Sevy might not be ready. (But on the optimistic side, neither might be Chris Sale. Take that, Boston!) 

15 comments:

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...


To shift the subject for just a minute: Saturday 5/15 is the anniversary -- 80th -- of the first hit of Joe D's 56-game hitting streak.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_DiMaggio%27s_56-game_hitting_streak

As y'all know, this is the guy who said "I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee."

JM said...

Joe D would've had no trouble hitting Severino.

You like how I tied the post and your comment together, Joe? I live for segues.

But sure, Sevvy may not ever be the kid who electrified the AL three years ago. Surgery does that to guys. Then again, Kluber--yes, it was the Tigers--is looking much better this month than last. So, ya never know. You can't predict baseball.

German hasn't exactly been great, but he's been pretty good. He didn't have surgery, but the time off hasn't been kind to him. Well, he wasn't very kind, either, and that's why all that time off happened. Still, he's young, and people can change. I hope, for his own sake and his future relationship partners'.

Carl J. Weitz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carl J. Weitz said...

I have to disagree slightly, Duque.

Sure there will be some rust but, hopefully, those half-dozen starts in Scranton will allow "Hi-HO" Severino to work that out. Concerning Tallion and Kluber: Tallion had 2 TJ procedures so the chance of him resurrecting a career is diminished over time. Kluber never relied on a speedy fastball, rather he depends more on pinpoint location and control. Plus his age is not a factor in his favor.

Considering Severino's age and style of pitching, if the doctor did a good job of repair, the speed of his fastball, which is his biggest asset, should return over a short period or find a gain in velocity as other pitchers have experienced post surgery. He was always a bit wild so he still has to master that aspect of pitching. Therefore, I think his chances to revert back to what he was before surgery separates him from the two others you mentioned. I think he will be just fine.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a crap shoot whether Severino gets his mojo back. It's true that some guys do throw even harder after coming back from TJ surgery, but then again some guys never make it back at all. With Severino, he was a flamethrower with a 100mph fastball. That's about the limit for a human being. So chances are that he won't throw any harder when he comes back. We'll be fortunate if he still has a 100mph fastball. But based on the track record of this ball club, and more importantly, based on Severino's own history of injuries, I would say that it's more likely than not that Severino won't pitch in the majors in 2021.

The Hammer of God

TheWinWarblist said...

Pitcher's mojo: Movement and Location. Molo. Maybe it's Movement and Jocation? Mojo. Yeah, that's it. That second one: MOvement and JOcation.

Kevin said...

What we have is a starting pitching gap.

DickAllen1964 said...


What we have here is a failure to slowly develop pitchers.

Severino May never be the guy we thought he would be. Truth is, the Yankees destroyed his career by overworking him his first two years.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the record:

His first two seasons he pitched 133 innings
The next two seasons: 384

Next stop: surgery. He reminds me of Francisco Liriano, or Kerry Wood or...

The list of pitchers who blew their arms out because of excessive innings too early in their careers could fill a surgical library. Most of those dead arms received little build up in the minors and so burned brightly and briefly before retiring with a few shekels to ease the pain.

I fear Severino will never be the same pitcher we thought he’d be, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Alphonso said...

The best thing Yankee fans can do is forget that Severino exists.

Let him appear as a "rookie" in spring training and see if he wows the team.

Counting on him...like counting on any Yankee to be a star ( see: Sanchez, Judge, Frazier, Hicks, Bird, Torres, etc ) ...is like baying at the moon and hoping to it the Lotto.

Best is to let him re-appear as a ghost presence in some future season.

But that's just me...

Carl J. Weitz said...

Dick, while there has been a large uptick in TJ surgeries I don't think it's too many innings that is the culprit. Certainly not a rise of an average of 67 innings a years to 192. Don't forget, Severino was a reliever his first 2 seasons. Something is causing a much higher number of pitchers to have arm problems but my guess would be lifting weights and/or PEDs.

Look at how few careers were ruined by arm problems when MLB had 4-man rotations which was pretty much the norm into the mid 70's and then morphed into the 5-man rotation by the early 80's. Those earlier pitchers regularly threw 250-300 + innings per season on obviously shorter rest.

Here is an interesting study on the matter. The author's conclusion is that there is no difference in the quality of starting pitchers with 4 days rest (now) versus 3 back then. What the researcher did find was that if a pitcher tossed 140 or more pitches in his previous start then a slight but statistically noticeable diminishing in quality occurred.

https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/22423/baseball-therapy-what-happened-to-the-four-man-rotation/

So after looking at this writer's research, which seems legitimate, I doubt the number of innings is the root cause of the proliferation of arm problems.

Carl J. Weitz said...

if a pitcher tossed 140 or more pitches in his previous start then a slight but statistically noticeable diminishing in quality occurred. IN HIS NEXT START*

DickAllen1964 said...

Carl, I wasn’t suggesting it was too many innings that ruined Severino’s arm. I think it was the sudden overload that did him in. His minor league career was in keeping with his first two years with the Yankees. He only went above 100 inning once, then they turned him completely loose the next two years. It seemed to me just too much stress on him. The result? After 190 innings two years in a row, he’s only thrown 13 innings since. At the end of that second season he was as good as dead.

DickAllen1964 said...

I didn’t realize the Yankees have sent a fair amount of players to get TJ surgery in the last five years:

Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres, Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German, Nathan Eovaldi, Clarke Schmidt, Michael Pineda and Ben Heller.

That’s quite a roster. I wonder how that stacks up to the rest of baseball.

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